Celebrate 'mystical interaction' of Muratie

A Vine Time, with Samantha Venter

THERE'S no debating that wine has deep roots in our country – in the history of South African industry, wine-making predates gold-mining by more than 200 years.

At 330-years-old next year, Muratie is a must-visit for a sense of the romance and rich history running through the veins of an industry that, if you were to be boringly practical about it, simply produces fermented grape juice.

The charm of it, though, is that mystical interaction of stone, soil, climate and weather; roots, plant and fruit; science and art, harnessed together by farmer and winemaker to produce a greater whole.

I will confess to having a soft spot for Muratie. One of the first wine estates I ever visited, I've returned again and again for a dose of that sense of history – the ancient oak trees, crumbling statues and antique wine-making equipment in the garden; the almost-underground tasting room with its cobwebs, stained glass and art; and the centuries of stories that accompany a wine tasting experience.

It's not hard to see how Ronnie Melck, a direct descendant of Martin Melck who was the estate's seventh owner in 1763, was fulfilling a lifelong dream when he bought Muratie in 1987.

The estate is now run by Ronnie's son, Rijk, and although it's been spruced up in parts, the wine range rejuvenated, and meals from the Farm Kitchen now on offer, that sense of history still pervades. This is especially so in Muratie's "Iconic" range which pays tribute to the personalities and stories that make up the estate's rich heritage.

Paying tribute to legendary wine-maker and shiraz lover, the Ronnie Melck Shiraz 2010 (about R120) is wonderfully dark, rich and spicy-smoky – really good now, and will only get better with time. Pair it with rich, smoked meats, ostrich or game for a real treat.

Painting and pinot noir were the twin passions of 1920s owner George Paul Canitz. He made the first pinot noir in South Africa, and his paintings still grace the cellar. The 2011 Pinot Noir (about R165) is a fitting salute – fresh, lively and elegant, velvety ripe fruit giving way to pinot's characteristic truffles and earthiness. A great partner for game, rich poultry dishes or a wild mushroom risotto.

The next generation has their place too – Isabella Chardonnay 2012 (about R95) is named for Rijk and Kim Melck's daughter and it's a beautiful balance of caramel, tangy fruit and minerality. The wood is subtle, making for a chardonnay that will appeal to lovers of both the wooded and unwooded variety, and a delicious partner to super fresh fish with lemon butter, roast chicken or light curries.

For great easy-drinking value, you won't go wrong with the Melck's range of rosé, red blend and white, at around R40-R50.